Interval training is a type of exercise that involves alternating periods of high-intensity and low-intensity activity. Interval training can help you improve your fitness, performance, and health in a shorter time than traditional continuous exercise. Interval training can also make your workouts more fun, challenging, and varied.

In this article, you will learn more about the history, benefits, and methods of interval training. You will also learn how to design and perform your own interval training program according to your goals, preferences, and fitness level.

A Brief History of Interval Training

Black woman lifting dumbbells in gymnasium

The history of interval training is intertwined with the history of sports and science. Since ancient times, people have been engaged in various forms of interval training for athletic or military purposes. For example, the ancient Greeks used interval training to prepare for the Olympic Games. The ancient Romans used interval training to train their soldiers for combat.

However, it was not until the 20th century that significant advances were made in the fields of physiology, psychology, and biomechanics to understand and optimize interval training. In 1912, Hanns Hüttner proposed the concept of interval training based on his observations of cyclists. In 1930, Woldemar Gerschler and Herbert Reindell developed the first scientific method of interval training based on heart rate measurements. In 1954, Emil Zátopek used interval training to win four gold medals at the Olympic Games. In 1960, Per-Olof Åstrand and Bengt Saltin demonstrated the effects of interval training on oxygen uptake and endurance. In 1996, Izumi Tabata and colleagues created the Tabata protocol (a high-intensity interval training method that involves 20 seconds of maximal effort followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight cycles).

Since then, many more discoveries and innovations have been made to refine and diversify interval training. Different types of interval training such as fartlek (a variable-intensity interval training method that involves changing speed or terrain according to feeling), HIIT (a high-intensity interval training method that involves short bursts of near-maximal effort followed by longer periods of moderate or low effort), LISS (a low-intensity steady-state interval training method that involves long periods of low or moderate effort), and SIT (a sprint-interval training method that involves very short bursts of maximal or near-maximal effort followed by longer periods of rest) have been developed to suit different goals, preferences, and fitness levels.

How Interval Training Can Benefit You

Interval training can benefit you in many ways by improving your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Here are some of the benefits of interval training:

  • Improving your cardiovascular fitness: Interval training can increase your heart rate, blood flow, oxygen delivery, and energy expenditure. This can improve your heart health, lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke, and enhance your endurance.
  • Improving your muscular fitness: Interval training can stimulate your muscle fibers, increase your muscle strength, power, and endurance. This can improve your performance in sports or daily activities, prevent or reduce muscle loss or injury, and increase your metabolism.
  • Improving your body composition: Interval training can burn more calories and fat than continuous exercise. This can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, reduce your body fat percentage or waist circumference, and improve your body shape or appearance.
  • Improving your mental health: Interval training can release endorphins (the feel-good hormones) and serotonin (the mood-regulating hormone) in your brain. This can improve your mood, reduce stress or anxiety, increase self-esteem or confidence, and prevent or treat depression.
  • Improving your cognitive function: Interval training can enhance blood flow to your brain and stimulate the growth of new brain cells or connections. This can improve your memory, attention, learning

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